The Philomath Post Office is going through staffing issues that have impacted the delivery of mail and packages. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Philomath residents in the Benton View Drive-Neabeack Hill section of town first started noticing mail delivery issues anywhere from two to five months ago. Mail would arrive in the late-evening hours and on some days, it wasn’t delivered at all.

Nowadays, many customers find themselves driving to the post office to pick up undelivered packages and accumulated mail. Those who have been asking questions of Postal Service employees have received answers that follow the same theme — a staff shortage.

A resident on South 30th Street who was picking up mail had been told that deliveries would continue, but only about every five days or so.

“One of our carriers told me that she was doing two routes, which accounted for the late-evening deliveries to us,” one resident said. “She complained that they were very short-handed and she felt overworked. That seems to have ended about three weeks ago when the mail simply did not arrive for several days.”

Lecia Hall, U.S. Postal Service strategic communications specialist, confirmed on Tuesday that Philomath is seeing staffing shortages.

“Due to continued staffing issues, there may have been days when a customer did not receive mail, but we are rotating employees and assignments so they will get mail the following day, with the postmaster occasionally carrying a route when needed,” Hall said in a response to questions via email. “As of today, the majority of mail will have been delivered. We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused and are working to restore regular, consistent service.”

Caroline Ajootian, a resident on Benton View Drive, said she had originally been told by the local post office there were problems with the mail carrier that they had been trying to get straightened out. When the issue continued, she said she was then told that there were not enough drivers for all of the Philomath routes with available employees working overtime.

“We have been told that the post office is short-staffed and that they are having difficulty hiring anyone,” Ajootian said about an issue that she estimated began in February or March — adding that she has no complaints about the local post office staff.

Another Benton View Drive resident was also told “that they are trying to hire but since it is government, it is a long process.” Like Ajootian, this resident said the post office staff has “been very apologetic” and relayed that they were not happy about the situation either.

The issues don’t appear to be limited to the Benton View-Neabeack neighborhood with folks from all sections sharing stories online of varying levels of service.

Hall said “local management is aware of recent customer concerns and are addressing the delivery issues. We are flexing every available resource, including borrowing employees from facilities across the state, to serve our Philomath customers.”

Ajootian said it was suggested to her that she arrange to pick up mail at the post office to bypass the hit-and-miss delivery situation.

“We’ve been doing this for a couple of weeks now and it’s fine for us — we’re both retired and have the time to run errands every day,” she said on Monday. “But I can see where this arrangement would be really inconvenient, if not impossible, for working folks, the disabled or those who live far outside of Philomath.”

Many residents depend on the postal service to deliver critical packages, such as medications, some of which require refrigeration like insulin.

“The Postal Service is aggressively hiring city carriers, rural carriers and clerks to stabilize our workforce,” the Postal Service’s Hall said. “Jobs are posted on the website every other Tuesday until stations are fully staffed and we currently have five potential employees for Philomath in the pipeline.”

As for residents, they obviously hope to see a resolution with their mail delivery in the near future.

Said Ajootian, “I can’t say that we receive earth-shattering mail everyday — often it’s only bills or junk or catalogs — but sometimes there will be a birthday card or a note from a grandchild or a package. Bills must be paid on time to avoid penalties and I doubt credit card companies and others will give us a pass because of local delivery problems.

“Regardless, the mail that is addressed to us is our property and it is the job of the U.S. Postal Service to make sure it gets to us in a timely manner.”

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.